DAY EIGHTY – Judith Taylor

Double sonnet: the tone argument

A useful honesty test of a call for civility is whether the person calling for “civility” in the current dispute has greater power on the relevant axes than the person they’re calling “uncivil”. In this context, calling for “civility” is a dominance move. Note that pretty much any objection is susceptible to being tagged “uncivil”.


I’ll sonnet this, but sarcastically: like there’s hope
it might get through. Like there’s hope, if I put it in your
approved-of form, then maybe that old oak door
you tell me I’m merely a beggar at, will ope-
n – oh, not to admit me (face it, the Pope
will take a shit in Windsor Great Park, before
any ghastly rough provincial is granted more
than sufferance) – but perhaps to extend the scope

of what you’re prepared to admit exists. You claim
the high ground: and why would you need to break
your urbane, unruffled tone, when the status quo
you serve is singing along? All those chaps you know
from school, from Oxford, from donors’ lunches, take
it upon themselves to write their minions by name

telling us how we should use our vote. The same
corporations who will fund your retirement, make
the right noises, in righteous tones, for you: so
you say, Pinocchio. Dancing to your tune? No.
You’re dancing to theirs: and the lack of strings is fake.
Yet still you dare to declare the rules of the game

are yours to set. That smooth discourse, like a rope
around the arena – players may only score
if they make the moves you define. And how you deplore
that uncouth lack of detachment, the raw straight dope
from the lied-to, and the lied-about. How does one cope,
dear me, with such incivility?
                                                         Best ignore
the whole damned shower. Drown out their barbarous roar
with the merry “pop” of the bubbles from your soft soap.

Judith Taylor lives and works in Aberdeen and is the author of two pamphlet collections, Earthlight (Koo Press, 2006) and Local Colour (Calder Wood Press, 2010).

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